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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

On the Cost of Liberty

Today in the United States we observe Memorial Day. While most only see today as the traditional opening of the summer vacation season (can I now wear my white Vans?), Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who have given their lives to protect the freedoms of our country. Services will be held at most national cemeteries, and thoughts and prayers offered by family members of soldiers who were killed in service to their country.

While most nations mark their countries' fallen, there is a bigger issue that Memorial Day arouses in my mind. Western culture is enjoying the highest quality of living in the history of humanity, in no small part to the Judeo-Christian ethic. But as we become comfortable in this newfound success, we also become forgetful of how difficult life can be for many people throughout the world. We become complacent, thinking that things like liberty and freedom do not require sacrifices, even the sacrifice that some of our sons and daughters make for those ideals.

Is a concept worth sacrifice? Are there things more valuable than life and comfort? Our Founding Fathers thought that such a position is not only the patriotic one, but the Christian thing to do. Below is a quote from Patrick Henry's famous speech before the Virginia Convention, asking to establish armies across the colony. He recognized that people were fearful of the cost of war, and that they would be sacrificing their sons and daughters. Henry addressed their concerns head on, but holds that the ideal of liberty for the sake of their posterity is worth "whatever anguish of spirit it may cost."
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it
Henry recognizes that, unlike today, the colonies were not nearly as likely to win a war against Britain, the superpower of that day. Yet, he ends his argument with some of the most powerful prose to come out of the founding period:
Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
I'm thankful for those who continue to see that ideals like freedom and liberty are extremely valuable, and I recognize those who have sacrificed themselves so that they may continue to flourish. May we never take their sacrifices for granted, nor trample underfoot the liberties for which they fought.

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